Even on the Internet some people prefer privacy

Despite being a blogger and being active on social media I still consider myself to be a private person. A common definition of privacy is “the right to be left alone” as written in an article by Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis in the Harvard Law Review. That’s still a pretty vague definition, which is my point. Privacy is very personal. What one person considers a breach of privacy another considers welcome attention. While I may share certain details about my life and my family online there are other things that I choose not to post about.

The subject of privacy has always been complicated and contentious. That Warren and Brandeis article was written in 1890. However, the popularity of blogs and social media increases the impact of perceived privacy violations.

Privacy on the Internet

Whether they call themselves open books or exhibitionists a lot of people are very comfortable revealling a lot of details about their lives on the Internet. The problem is that no one lives in isolation. Writing about your life often means writing about someone else as well, and that person may not want to be written about. They may not want their picture or story shared.

Sharers often don’t seem to grasp some people’s desire for privacy. They say, “It’s nothing to be ashamed of” or “But it’s true.”

People don’t necessarily desire privacy because they are ashamed or because they are lying to others. Some of us want certain details about our lives, whether they be flattering or embarrassing or trivial, to be private just because we want those details to be private.

It’s the same reason why I have curtains on my windows. I don’t want to live in a fishbowl. I should have the right to be left alone.

Just as we must all share this earth, we must all share this Internet. Please be understanding that other people may have different boundaries:

  • Think before you post about others, particularly if you want to maintain a good relationship with them.
  • If you aren’t sure if someone would be comfortable if you post their picture or write something about them, ask.
  • If someone posts something about you that you are uncomfortable with talk to them about it. Don’t demand they “stop blogging” altogether.
  • Understand that if you insist on posting things about others they may not like you.
  • Understand that sometimes people will write about you (both innocently and maliciously), and there is usually little you can do about it.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post included a link to another post that started the conversation. That was interpretted as a direct criticism of the other writer, which was not my intent, so I removed it. Even privacy advocates can misjudge what someone else is comfortable having posted about them.

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